Paco Ruiz opened the doors to his barbershop in La Canada-Flintridge for the first time in 1960. He's moved locations once over the years, but that never stopped his loyal clientele from coming in every few weeks for another fresh cut.
Ruiz grew up in Santa Maria. As a child he worked in the strawberry fields with his mom and siblings. In grade school he started selling newspapers. After high school he joined the US Air Force where he started cutting hair for his airmen pals. He charged them 25-cents back then.
But 57 years after he greeted his first customer, Ruiz says he knows it's time to wind it all down.
"I'm not ready, but I have to," he says. "When you get our age, we do miss a few stop signs, thank God there's nobody crossing in front of us!"
The 84-year-old is known for his witty banter. But politics and religion - that's a no-no at Paco's Barbershop - where the candy chest is the same he's used since he opened, and so is the cash register!
Come November, though, Ruiz says he's closing shop. Nov. 18 will be his last day and he says the community is working to celebrate his career at the barbershop on Nov. 19.
"I keep telling my customers, I'm just grateful," he says, but adds that he knows it won't be easy to say goodbye.
"They gave us so much and it's getting to be a real tough situation," Ruiz says as he wipes away a tear.
Ruiz says he's watched kids who come in for a hair cut grow into adults and bring their own kids back in. He says the stories his customers have shared have helped him to grow as a human being.
"The families have raised their kids so beautifully," he says. "It's really an honor to know them."
But as his time in his career winds down, Ruiz says he's not ready to let go of the kindness this community has shown him.
"How do you say goodbye to people that treated you that way? It's rough. Damn rough. God really blessed me here."
Ruiz says he's looking forward to doing some more golfing in his retirement and adds that his best advice for others is to "keep moving." He says he hopes to volunteer a lot more now that he's got more time, too.